BASTROP, Texas — Texas National Guard members and service members from the Chilean and Czech armed forces battled to earn the title of the 2018 Texas Military Department Best Warrior Feb. 28 - March 3 at Camp Swift near Bastrop.
The joint competition provided an opportunity for cultural exchange as well as enhanced military capabilities in a friendly but competitive environment.
"With our state partnerships, the Czech Republic and Chile, we trade technical expertise, leadership and values on how they may operate and how we may operate with tactics and techniques," said Command Sgt. Maj. Kristopher Dyer, Senior Enlisted Advisor of the Texas Army National Guard.
This year's best warrior competition brought together 28 candidates who competed in nine rated events that closely imitated real-life and combat situations.
"Everything within the competition is scenario based to where they would be able to participate in a combat environment or a real-world exercise," Dyer said. "We put them in mental and physical fully blown tests to see how they react under pressure and stress."
The importance of the relationship between the Texas National Guard, the Czech and Chilean armed forces is being able to predict the thoughts and processes of a partner nation, allowing them to work in unison, Dyer said.
The inclusion of foreign forces is part of the TMD State Partnership Program, which is partnered with the Czech Republic and Chile. The program facilitates cooperation across all aspects of international civil-military affairs and encouraging people-to-people ties at the state level.
For Staff Sgt. Juan Domingo Silva, a Marine with the Chilean Navy, this was his first time participating in a multinational event.
"The physical aspect has been challenging but we've trained for similar events in Chile," said Silva.
The competition meant much more than just winning, it meant representing his country and learning to adapt to a different environment and culture, Silva said.
The program provided Chilean service members with a bilingual sponsor to help with the language barrier during the competition.
"The culture exchange experience has been valuable," said Texas Army National Guard Spc. Manuel Najera, Alpha Company, 536th Brigade Support Battalion. Najera served as Silva's sponsor.
"The most challenging part has been adapting to the Chilean-Spanish dialect," Najera said.
Sgt. Jan Hronek, a Czech Republic service member also said interacting with other multinational service members increased his cultural awareness.
"This competition has shown me the similarities between forces and how they operate," said Hronek. "I feel proud to serve and represent my country abroad."
The competition enabled competitors to refine their skills and learn from their counterparts.
"At the end of the day this is an event that brings Texas together with two separate countries that we are partnered with," Dyer said. "Together they learn from each other and benefit from training and different techniques and ways that we can lead our Soldiers and operate in the environments that we are in."
The winner of the competition will be announced at a banquet in April. Competitors from both Chile and the Czech Republic will be invited back for the ceremony.